Illustration by Tom Carlson
The United Way of Greater Cleveland and the United Way of Medina County, which merged in 2015 to prevent conflicts arising from fundraising overlap, have parted ways.
Per agency press releases and media reports, the Medina organization will now merge with the United Way of Summit County. Medina surrendered its independent chapter status when it merged with Cleveland and was unable to separate itself from Cleveland without being absorbed by another chapter.
Medina's board chair Nick Hanek told the Medina Gazette
that there were no hard feelings between the Medina and Cleveland organizations as they went their separate ways.
“This is a directional change," Hanek said. "It will align better with what we’re trying to do. There will be more dollars going into the Medina [county] community.”
The Medina org last year raised approximately $800,000 as part of its annual appeal. About half of that figure was returned to community organizations in the form of grants.
The 2015 merger was established under former United Way of Greater Cleveland President Bill Kitson, but the relationship soured under his successor, Augie Napoli, and Napoli's VP of Development, Aaron Petersal.
Sources who spoke to Scene for our reporting earlier this year
on the toxicity of the United Way workplace alluded to the Medina County situation. After the lone Medina development staffer was cut to save money, the Medina accounts were dispersed among Cleveland's development staffers — the fundraising crew — who were already overburdened and felt they didn't have the knowledge or personal relationships to effectively maintain them. Fundraising in Medina declined as a result.
Chatter among the Medina organization's board of directors about parting ways with the Cleveland chapter and merging with Summit county began as early as last Fall.
A press release from Summit County noted that the new merger would allow the unified organization to coordinate a regional strategy while continuing to address the individual county needs. Measured by revenue, United Way of Summit County had been the largest single-county United Way chapter in the country.
“United Way remains committed to serving the residents of both Summit and Medina counties, especially as we respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jim Mullen, president and CEO of United Way of Summit and Medina, in the press release. “Summit and Medina share deep economic ties, and once we get through this crisis together, we will continue to ensure we build thriving communities.”
Per the release, United Way will maintain a physical presence in both downtown Akron and downtown Medina.
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